Note from BW of Brazil: The Turma da Mônica (Monica’s Gang in its English edition) cartoon has been a Brazilian favorite for 60 years and the classic recently debuted on the big screen with the characters being portrayed by child actors. With the debut of the film and the actors chosen to play the characters, a debate about the racial classification and possibility of a black child actor portraying the character Cascão became one of the topics on the minds of Mônica’s black fans. As we can see from the child that eventually won the part, that didn’t happen. But it does seem that Mônica’s creators are attempting to take the opinions of its black fans into consideration, first with the introduction of a clearly black family in the gang’s cast, and then with a recently tweeted photo that seemed to suggest that the cartoon’s makers supported the selection of a black actress in the film production of one of Disney’s most beloved characters.
“The Little Mermaid”: after Disney announcement, Turma da Mônica turns Milena into Ariel
The announcement of a black actress and singer to interpret Ariel, one of the most traditional princesses of Disney’s stories, received a tribute from the Brazilian character created to represent the ethnic diversity in the Brazilian comics: Milena, from Turma da Mônica.
In the drawing, Milena, whose friends include Mônica, Cebolinha, Cascão and Magali, appears with a pink ribbon and a handful of pearls adorning her curly hair, while resting her tail on a stone, in the classic pose of A Pequena Sereia (The Little Mermaid).
The homage by the Maurício de Sousa franchise can be interpreted as a response to the criticisms made because the black actress Halle Bailey, does not match the phenotype of the princess with white skin and red hair in the animation.
After the announcement, the social networks registered racist comments and also complaints from those who wanted a faithful representation of Ariel in the live-action film promised a few years ago. Some internet users even suggested that Disney could create another story with a black character instead of altering the characteristics of the princess who lives at the bottom of the sea and entered into the imagination of the fans.
When he announced Milena in 2017, Mauricio de Sousa avoided raising questions about minority representation. He even said that the stories of Turma da Mônica do not have “political or customary concerns”. Still, the character was questioned by a portion that interpreted the emergence of the black girl as an attempt by the comic book to raise the flag of racial representation. On social networks, comments said that the gang from Limoeiro already had blacks, such as Jeremias and Pelezinho.
At 19, Halle Bailey is an American singer and actress. She forms a duo with her sister called Chloe x Halle – the two caught the attention of Beyoncé, who took them to her record label and began to mentor them. The fact that she is more of a singer may indicate that A Pequena Sereia’s live-action is a musical.
The new version will be directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago and Mary Poppins Returns), who affirmed to have chosen Halle for the main role because of her “combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and content, besides a glorious voice”. The movie still has no definite debut date.
In social networks, Halle published an image of Ariel with black skin and black hair, leaning on a rock to rest from the dives on the seabed.
Note from BW of Brazil: The story of the addition of a black family to Mônica’s Gang made headlines back in January. As covered in recent posts, some black fans had already in fact interpreted one of the lead characters in the comic, Cascão, as a black boy and when a film starring child actors was announced, many demanded that the character with the kinky hair be portrayed by a black actor. Mônica creator Maurício de Sousa actually declared that, unlike other characters of the Turma, Cascão was never drawn as black. As I wrote before, having a dispute over the racial classification of a cartoon character and downplaying the idea that he could be black is as Brazilian as it can get. Either way, fans of the comic were happy with the appearance of Milena and her family at the beginning of the year.
The cover of Turma da Mônica with a black family looks beautiful
Courtesy of Hypeness
It took (over 40 years), but Turma da Mônica will finally have its first black family. Milena is the main character, who lives in the neighborhood of Limoeiro.
She is a young black woman with curly hair, who entered the troupe originally in 2017. Absolute success
The black family does not run into stereotypes. On the contrary, Milena is the daughter of a veterinarian and leads a happy and normal life. She was described by the creator, Maurício de Souza, as a girl “full of attitude, passionate about music and futebol”.
It’s so beautiful!!
The arrival of Milena and her family is an unprecedented boost to black representation. Elders must remember how damaging it was to grow up without references within the country’s most popular comic books. Non-black youth also gain from having contact with diversity.
In times where the figure of the black is still absent or treated with misconception in novelas (soap operas) and TV shows, Milena is most welcome.
Milena’s family has five members: Silvia (Milena’s mother), who is a veterinarian, married to publicist Renato. Milena also has two siblings: sister Solange and brother Fabinho.
According to information from the press agent, Milena is 7 years old and has a high self-esteem. She identifies herself quickly and builds a great friendship with Mônica, Magali and Marina.
Solange, known as Sol, is 17 years old, is the lead singer of a band, while Fabinho, or Binho, is 5 years old and will get along very well with Magali’s cousin, Dudu.
“Milena was created to reinforce the representation of meninas negras (black girls) in comics, animations and live action events, so they can see each other in the stories and know that they run the streets,” said Mônica Sousa, executive director of MSP, in an officialrelease at the time of the launch of 2017 that took place in partnership with UN Women.